Camp Pooh-Poohed Abuse, Parents Say

     HOUSTON (CN) – A summer camp counselor punished an 11-year-old boy by making him shower up to six times a day, doing a “shower check” on him, fondling his genitals and penetrating his anus, his parents claim in court.
     John and Jane Doe sued Camp La Junta 1928 and its owner Blake Smith on behalf of their son, Johnny Doe, in Harris County Court. The parents say former employee, not Smith, molested their son.
     “Billing itself as a ‘premier summer camp for boys,’ Camp La Junta is located in Hunt, Texas and operates as a private, for-profit organization. The camp reserves its enrollment for young boys between the ages of 7 and 14 years,” according to the complaint.
     The Does say in the complaint that after camp counselor Matthew Bovee was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting their son, Smith tried to distance his camp from the allegations by telling campers’ parents that the boy “had ’emotional problems,’ was a problem child, and was lying.”
     Bovee is not named as a defendant.
     The Does say they enrolled Johnny, then 11, in Camp La Junta’s session from July 7 to July 19, 2009, where he was assigned to a cabin under the supervision of senior camp counselor Bovee.
     “Senior Camp Counselor Bovee showed Johnny Doe multiple knives and bragged (falsely) about having served in the United States Marines,” the complaint states. “Occasionally, Bovee would require Johnny Doe to lay in bed with him.
     “Bovee also required Johnny Doe to take as many as six showers per day as a form of punishment. When Johnny Doe exited the shower, naked except for a towel wrapped around his waist, Bovee would conduct a ‘shower check’ on Johnny Doe by physically touching, inspecting, and penetrating Johnny Doe’s genitals and anus.
     “Humiliated and confused by Bovee’s treatment, Johnny Doe wrote a letter to his mother complaining about his camp experience and the repeated showers without disclosing details that he had been sexually abused and intimidated by Bovee.” (Parentheses in original.)
     According to the complaint, Johnny Doe wrote: “‘It is not fun anymore. You won’t believe this I had to take a shower 6 times as punishments that were not fair. [Bovee] forgot to check after I took a shower so no one saw me naked so now he has to check me every time I take a shower. I want to go home, p.s. Please do something.'”
     Jane Doe says that when she got the letter she immediately called Smith, shared her concerns about the letter and forwarded him a copy. The mother says she asked to speak to her son on the phone and Smith discouraged it, saying he “was simply experiencing home sickness that would only be exaggerated by speaking to his mother.”
     “Jane Doe rejected Blake Smith’s speculation about her son and insisted that she would drive to the camp immediately to see her son if she couldn’t speak to him by phone,” according to the complaint.
     “Blake Smith reluctantly agreed to allow a phone call. He arranged for Johnny Doe to speak to his mother by telephone.
     “Johnny Doe’s only opportunity to speak to his mother about his ordeal occurred in a crowded cafeteria with both Bovee and Blake Smith present during the call.
     “After speaking to her son, Jane Doe insisted that Blake Smith investigate her son’s report about multiple showers and shower checks.
     “Blake Smith did not meaningfully investigate the report, and Johnny Doe continued to suffer abuse at the hands of Bovee until the end of camp,” the complaint states.
     The Does say their son did not disclose the abuse until several months after camp ended.
     “Though experiencing nightmares and other effects of sexual abuse, Johnny Doe remained silent because of his fear that Bovee would find him and retaliate against him if he talked,” according to the complaint. “When he finally disclosed what had happened to him at camp, the matter was immediately referred to law enforcement authorities.
     “Bovee was arrested and charged with the felony offense of sexually abusing a child a short time later.”
     The Does say the news caused parents of former and returning campers to question Smith about it.
     However, “Rather than embracing the safety and well-being of a former camper, Blake Smith repeatedly made oral and written statements emphasizing strong denials made by Bovee,” the complaint states.
     “At the same time, Blake Smith repeatedly made statements emphasizing that the victim-camper was the only witness and the only child who had complained of abuse.
     “Blake Smith also represented and implied that the victim-camper had ’emotional problems,’ was a problem child, and was lying. Blake Smith made these statements in mailings sent to and conversations conducted with residents of Harris County, Texas.”
     Bovee pleaded guilty to the felony sexual abuse of Johnny Doe on May 10, 2011.
     He is serving nine years in prison, according to the complaint.
     “In the meantime, Camp La Junta prepares for another summer session that’s ‘all about boys,'” the complaint states.
     The Does seek punitive damages for defamation, negligence, negligent retention and supervision and negligent misrepresentation.
     They are represented by Rusty Hardin, the attorney who is defending Roger Clemens against charges that he lied to Congress in 2008 about using steroids.

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